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Ireland: An Analysis of a Destination Brand.

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This document addresses the tourism industry using destination branding, as it is a …

This document addresses the tourism industry using destination branding, as it is a
relatively new phenomenon. It seeks to improve our understanding of the current
practice, how knowledge, trust and loyalty together with image and identity play a
pivotal role in the process and how using classical branding, can differentiate one
destination over another.

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  • 1. Brand Ireland An Analysis of a Destination Brand Paul Guy DT314A Postgraduate Diploma in Management & Marketing September 2012
  • 2.   4   ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS It would not have been possible to write this piece without the help and support of the kind people around me. Above all, I would like to thank my wife Tania and my two great kids for their support. I would like to also thank Lesley Murphy, my supervisor, who steered me through my chosen topic of interest in a formidable way and Brian Twomey of Tourism Ireland, who offered support with an interview and endless insight. Lastly I would like to thank the Simon Anholt, who unconsciously eight months ago, brought to my attention the terminology of a ‘Nation Brand’.
  • 3.   5   TABLE OF CONTENTS TITLE PAGE..................................................................................................2 DECLARATION............................................................................................3 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS............................................................................4 ABSTRACT....................................................................................................6 INTRODUCTION...........................................................................................7 1.0 LITERATURE REVIEW................................................................................9 1.1 A Nation Brand....................................................................................9 1.2 Destination Branding.........................................................................11 1.2.1 Brand Knowledge..................................................................12 1.2.2 Brand Trust............................................................................13 1.2.3 Brand Loyalty........................................................................13 1.3 Imagery and Identity..........................................................................14 1.4 Brand Equity in Tourism...................................................................15 1.5 The role of Brand Ambassadors and Stakeholders............................15 1.6 Management of a Destination Brand.................................................17 2.0 INDUSTRY ANALYSIS..............................................................................18 2.1 Establishing Tourism Ireland............................................................18 2.2 Destination Branding.........................................................................19 2.3 Imagery and Identity..........................................................................21 2.4 Brand Equity in Tourism...................................................................22 2.5 The role of Brand Ambassadors and Stakeholders...........................24 2.6 Management of a Destination Brand.................................................24 2.6.1 Industry Analysis using (SWOT) ........................................25 3.0 DISCUSSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS...........................................26 3.1 Imagery and Identity.........................................................................26 3.2 Brand Equity in Tourism..................................................................29 3.3 Management of a Destination Brand................................................29 CONCLUSION.............................................................................................31 BIBLIOGRAPHY........................................................................................33 APPENDIX A..............................................................................................37 Recorded interview with Brian Twomey, Head of Marketing Communications, Tourism Ireland.
  • 4.   6   ABSTRACT The concept of a national brand is widely accepted both in literature and practice. Academics cite the many attributes to branding a competitive nation from place branding, country of origin and destination branding. This document addresses the tourism industry using destination branding, as it is a relatively new phenomenon. It seeks to improve our understanding of the current practice, how knowledge, trust and loyalty together with image and identity play a pivotal role in the process and how using classical branding, can differentiate one destination over another. It further illustrates the necessity of a cooperative and collaborative approach to evoke the touristic destination choice and in turn project the profile of the national brand. Finally the paper concludes the suggestion of creativity in the marketplace using all stakeholders involved.
  • 5.   7   INTRODUCTION There is a general agreement among academics that destinations can be branded in much the same way as consumer goods, by the same methodology just a different product and market. (Papadopoulos and Heslop, 2002). One of the most valuable properties of any firm or country is its brand. The more conscious the brand is in the consumers’ mind, the more benefits the corporation or country can achieve. Therefore as Kotler and Gertner (2002) ask, can a country be a brand? And is there such a thing as country brand equity?Academics have applied the term ‘country equity,’ by referring to the values of emotion that results from a consumers’ association of a brand with a country. Brand equity is an added value which brand gives to a product. (Farquhar, 1989) It refers to the value of the brand (Dinnie, 2008). The brand equity of destination branding provides an asset for the nation and creates a solid reputation in the destination choice process. Hence why some countries can as such gain the ‘360’ affect that results in a nation gaining attraction for different platforms. Managing an identity in the context of a national image is a challenging and costly one. There are so many destination markets to consider and each market must be championed differently to gather attraction. Therefore it is of significance that the process of the correct branding is forthright and compelling. Destination management calls for a coalition of many organisations and interests working towards a common goal. The goal being a collaborative approach to maintain the customer experience through all channels of marketing and determining and distributing the campaign stakeholders. Destination branding will eventually if managed correctly lead to loyalty and repeat travel and influence. It acts as a free communications tool to provide promotion for the brand of the nation. A destination with a powerful and positive image will become lucrative because less expenditure and time is needed to influence the consumer. The only objective that has to be achieved is consistency and attractiveness that if already managed and in place, is tangible. But there is more to
  • 6.   8   destination branding, as much as it is important to achieve influence in the decision making process, the after effect can be much more.
  • 7.   9   1.0 LITERATURE REVIEW 1.1 A Nation brand. In academia the term ‘nation brand’ is viewed as a complicated multi facet undertaking. (Fan, 2010) This author notes that the many terms and discussions change frequently depending on what articles are read and when they are written. (Dinnie, 2008) It has taken the past 15 years for the notion of this form of brand to attract the attention it deserves, even critics of nation branding have admitted that a nation brand must exist. (Fan, 2010) The issue as this author found is what ‘nation branding’ refers to and how a nation can be branded. Using key academic stakeholders in the development of nation, place and destination branding literature, this document aims to explain the attributes of destination branding whilst showing how a ‘rounded view approach’ both benefits nation and destination branding. To commence a clarification of some misunderstandings about nation branding using Fan’s (2010) framework is being used to develop the origins of the concept. According to Fan (2006) the term ‘nation’ refers to the occupants of a race and its culture as opposed to their country of habitat. Branding a nation is not a new phenomenon, the earliest form of nation branding dates back to the era of Alexander the Great (356-323 BC). (Walvis, 2003) The whole concept of building a nation’s brand image is attracting more academic attention in recent years and because of this more governments and departments are enlisting independent policy advisors like Simon Anholt. (Independent policy advisor and researcher on nation brands) There are so many definitions for this form of branding that sometimes the descriptive meaning can be misunderstood. An example of this would be destination branding and place branding. Blain et al (2005) argue that destination branding is primarily used for the tourism trade with destination marketing companies being successful in attracting a ‘desire’ to visit. Place branding however, is very close to the ideology of public diplomacy in that it is a highly political activity that can enhance a nations economy and investment proposal. (Morgan, 2004)
  • 8.   10   To understand just what is destination branding one must firstly understand the benefits of building a country’s reputation. There are many academic articles written about country branding and country competitiveness. (Mihailovich, 2006) For any country or nation to achieve a positive perception particularly in the Tourism sector, a country’s image is the main and most prominent powerful tool. (Szondi, 2010) There is a predetermined image imposed on a tourist and their tourist destination decision before actively deciding on their choice of destination. Countries with a reputation of being poor or uncivilized or even corrupt will find tourism attraction very difficult. The nation’s brand is perceived before them and the trust of their brand is at stake. This is why nation branding becomes strategically fundamental before even destination branding can occur; if the wrong imagery is present it becomes extremely difficult to market touristic activities to the wider audience. (Kaneva, 2009) Branding a nation can be broken down to different forms of branding. Although there are mixed views about the topic, ‘place branding’ primarily concentrates on the development and attraction of a country’s achievements and investment in an economic sense. (Hanna and Rowley, 2008) The Journal of Place Branding highlights various disciplines that discuss place branding, (Kavaratzis and Ashworth, 2005) and a comparison between corporate branding and city brands. (Olins, 2002) Olins, in particular interprets the stature of product branding. He mentions the importance of strategic thinking when ‘platforming’ a nation. He states there is confusion about Country of Origin branding (COO) and Nation branding, meaning consumers can get caught up with the products of origin and therefore perceive the platform of a nations attractiveness. In his published book ‘Trading Identities’ (Olins, 2000), he explains how this occurs. An example would be Germany and BMW, a robust and powerful brand that exudes the DNA of its nation. But as Anholt, (2010) suggests in terms of tourism, sometimes nations need to differentiate from their product brands. For the travel and tourism industry it is seen that ‘destination branding’ is the area for growing the perception of external values of the entire nation not as an investment but as an attraction for destination touristic choice. Figure 1.0 below illustrates the many facets of nation branding taken from Fan (2006). But literature
  • 9.   11   since then suggests that place branding and destination branding have increasingly separated and are now more focused on their set goals, being investment and tourism respectively. Figure 1.0 The concept of nation branding For the purpose of this study, nation branding offers no tangible product, it instead represents a wide variety of factors: place/destination, people, culture, history, language, image and political and economic systems. (Fan, 2006) For a strategic nation brand exercise to work, all parties or ambassadors of the nation must approach it in a consistent manner. (Anholt, 2008) 1.2 Destination branding. “Destination branding is growing rapidly as an approach to tourism destination promotion” (Murphy et al 2007, p.5) and Ireland is frequently acknowledged as a successfully branded and marketed tourism destination. (O’Leary and Deegan, 2005) Destination Branding relates to the marketing of tourism; however nation branding usually relates to “the positive effects of branding the nation for the benefit of tourism development” (Kavaratzis 2005, p. 232) In short, destination branding means marketing tourist destinations. Cai (2002) conceived one of the first conceptual models for destination branding. The current model of destination branding reflects how the tourist decision-making process works. The process includes brand knowledge, brand trust and brand loyalty (Hsu and Cai, 2009). As illustrated in Figure 2.0, Cai’s model explains the Product Branding (Export) Place Branding (Investment) Public Diplomacy (Political) NATION BRANDING Destination Branding (Tourism)
  • 10.   12   process of optimising a consistent brand element mix to uniquely identify and position the destination through positive image building. The tourist decision maker should be looked upon as a brand consumer, in that the same functional processes occur. The brand, product and in this case, the destination must possess positive and differential attractions to persuade the consumer. (Hsu and Cai, 2009) Thus the mental fixed and long-term loyalty must be captured through initial perception. Once the consumer using brand imagery and their brand knowledge of their chosen destination makes the agreed decision, free destination marketing can commence through word of mouth campaigns. The brand trust is defined as a tourist’s willingness to rely on his or her perceived ability of the destination brand to deliver its promises and meet or exceed the tourist’s expectations built upon his or her knowledge of the brand. Figure 2.0 Branding Blocks in Tourist Decision-Making Process Tourists usually only decide on destination choice by warranting trust, they must trust the brand of the nation. Furthermore trust, will in theory lead to loyalty if the knowledge of the nation brand is positive and true. 1.2.1 Brand knowledge. Destination Marketing Organisations (DMO) are constantly seeking methods of differentiating themselves to position favorably against their competitors and to communicate with touristic consumers efficiently. Brand knowledge needs have given rise to an increase research on destination branding. (Cai, 2002) According to Walvis (2003, p.365) “creating good brand locations requires a peculiar combination of talents, skills, and knowledge”. Keller (2003) defined consumer brand knowledge as all descriptive and evaluative brand related information stored in the consumer’s memory. Cai (2002) defines destination branding as the identification and management of a consistent set of brand elements through positive destination image building and awareness creation. Cai, further notes that destination image and communications will lead to more Brand Knowledge Brand Trust   Brand Loyalty  
  • 11.   13   awareness for knowledge from the tourist. (Cai, 2002) 1.2.2 Brand trust. The sequence for the tourist consumer decision will end with loyalty but it is trust that creates a cognitive acceptance that will offer reoccurrence and value for the destination brand. For a destination, it matters because a trusted brand brings about tourist loyalty. The national image is of huge importance for tourism. Today it is a natural occurrence to trust fellow tourists, friends and online sites for testimonials and it is natural for people to trust word-of-mouth information above advertising. (Mihailovich, 2006) The tourist authorities/boards need to ‘sell the country’ to the target audiences. They also need to influence the international tourist operators about trust in the designated destination. This is why destination branding until recently is becoming more understood and displaying its differences from place branding. It is to gather trust that will eventually entice tourism that in turn will provide growth and revenue in the chosen nation’s economy. In terms of retaining the loyalty one could define the task as, “an intense bond between the consumer and the brand, and the main ingredient of this bond is trust.” (Hiscock 2001, p. 32) 1.2.3 Brand loyalty. The term customer loyalty is used to describe the behaviour of repeat customers, as well as those that offer good ratings, reviews, or testimonials. As shown in Figure 1.0 previously, loyalty can only come about from primary knowledge of the destination and then trust. For a destination, it matters because a trusted brand brings about tourist loyalty. Kotler et al, (1999) suggest countries are more competitive these days to attract residents and tourists. Kozak (2001) pointed that level of satisfaction as one of the most dominant variables in explaining revisit intention. Destination loyalty can only come about if the promise was kept, meaning that the destination choice process and knowledge matches the reality. Loyalty is based on reoccurrence, but factors of location, relevance and social acceptance are to be adhered to, as the choice must bare credibility and self-pride. In this respect, Chen and Tsai (2007) conclude that a key effect of tourist satisfaction that influences tourism intentions
  • 12.   14   for revisit both in short and long term is loyalty to the destination. 1.3 Imagery and identity.   Brand identity and brand image are entirely two different things. (Nandan, 2004) The identity of a brand is made up of its components, its representations, its people and culture. On the other hand, the brand image is the perception of the consumer, in this case the tourist or tourist operator. Anholt, although seen more as a nation brand advisor, stated the most important asset to any country is its brand image (Anholt, 2008) and as with any brand, brand image is the perceived image of the brand from an individual. The importance of destination identity and imagery is broken down to two areas in literature. It is the impact on pre-visualisation and post departure. (Pike and Ryan, 2004) As stated previously it is the responsibility of the destination marketing organisation to showcase the national brand for travel attraction. Although Morgan (2004) suggest that private companies can enhance or deplete a national image with their own form of market branding. In some countries the national airline take this responsibility as they see they need the attraction the most. Brands have social, emotional and identity value to users. (Kotler and Gertner, 2002) When consumers make brand choices about products including destinations they are making life style statements since they are buying not only into an image but also into an emotional relationship. (Urdde, 1999) Brand identity is the identity of the brand, the brand essence. (Dinnie, 2008) Once word of mouth marketing agrees that the chosen destination is in fact a great choice of touristic attraction, the value of the national brand increases. In turn this brings constant awareness about that country and its components such as; culture, people and economy. Hence the process turns into a systematic positive circle and it is at this point that the realisation has been achieved. (Hanna and Rowley, 2011) If tourist consumers are satisfied with image factor, they are more willing to spread positive recommendations as well as to undertake repeat visitations in future. Accordingly, tourist satisfaction of image plays an important role in destination
  • 13.   15   loyalty. This finding proposes that it would be important for destination mangers to establish positive perceived images that can satisfy tourists in order to achieve destination loyalty. Brand benefits are the personal values and meanings attached to the attributes, and brand attitudes are the consumers’ overall evaluation of the brand. 1.4 Brand equity in tourism. It is important to remember that the value of a county’s brand comes across from the recognition that builds up in the consumer’s mind. In order to maintain that traction, the messaging must be clear and invigorating. According to Konecnik and Gartner (2007) an important contribution to contemporary branding research for destinations is the introduction of the consumer based brand equity concept. They argued that, from a consumers’ perspective, destination brand equity should be measured in four dimensions: awareness, image, quality, and loyalty. The image and quality dimensions influence the affective image component. The loyalty and quality dimensions are associated with the image component. With regards to the touristic destinations, the brand equity evaluation method requires changes, as the comparison to the printed booklets is no longer possible. The indicators used for assessing brand equity; are the numbers of tourist choices made for the chosen destination, the volume of expenditure revenue and the duration of the stay. 1.5 The role of brand ambassadors and stakeholders. The role of ambassadors or stakeholders in a destination brand is very formidable in perception, communications and influence. An ambassador can be seen as a brand, person, organisation or an agenda. If the alignment is right the outcome can create a positive experience for a destination decision maker. Ambassadors, known usually in a diplomatic sense can be affiliated with a nation’s brand within the arts, culture and music categories. The entertainment industry and the media play a particularly important role in shaping people’s perceptions of places, especially those viewed negatively. Trust influences the trustor’s perceptions of risk and benefit associated with the interaction with the trustee (Coleman, 1990).
  • 14.   16   Some countries gain competitive advantage over other destinations by developing an ambassador’s programme using links with high profile personalities to endorse the national brand. Famously, celebrity endorsement put Australia firmly on the map for touristic destination choice, even though the location was so far out of people’s mindset. Paul Hogan, whose declaration to “put another shrimp on the Barbie” in the Australian Tourism Commission’s Come and Say G’Day campaign, oozed Australian values of openness and friendliness. Incredibly, Australian visitor numbers then doubled in the next four years. (Travel Marketing Decisions) If this form of partnership is ensured, it should be directed in a way to support the development and infusion of the destination brand values across multiple stakeholders, in order to generate an ongoing commitment of all people to the destination brand, encourage brand supportive behaviour and facilitate the necessary consistency. It is the momentum and trust of the population that matters, as they are the ambassadors of the nation’s branding. For any sustainable tourism development plan to have the greatest opportunity to be successful, stakeholders must be involved. (Manning & Dougherty, 2000) Freeman describes stakeholders as being “Any group or individual who can affect or is affected by the achievement of an organisation’s objectives.” (Freeman, 1984, p.46) Stakeholder engagement is important in destination branding; it is the central significance of multiple stakeholders. (Hanna and Rowley, 2011) Quelch and Jocz (2005) state that because of the times we live in with the age of internet and 24-hour-a-day news with easy international travel for the masses, it is more difficult than ever for governments to control the information flow that helps shape its national image. Today any nationality, can be a brand ambassador for their own nation with accessibility of social networking mobile applications. “The primary responsibility for the success of the nation brand lies with individuals: the nation’s citizens, members of the Diaspora, or even non-citizens in distant locations who may find cause to engage with the nation and therefore wish to have a stake in its success” (Aronczyk, 2008, p.p. 41-65) Olins, (2002) states that people are consumers and consumers of product, whether it
  • 15.   17   be tourism or footwear, the truth is they can be manipulated and inspired with the use of the same techniques that companies use to brand products. Once a country’s brand image begins to improve, a virtuous cycle comes into play: the country promotes the brands and the brands promote the country. 1.6 Management of a destination brand. The responsibility of the management aspect is down to the Destination Management Organisation, (DMO). They do not control the activities of their partners but bring together resources and expertise and a degree of independence and objectivity to lead the way forward. It follows that DMO’s must develop a high level of skill in developing and managing partnerships. Though DMO's have typically undertaken marketing activities, their remit is becoming far broader to become a strategic leader in destination development. Morgan and Pritchard (2002) note that for true destination branding to work, it must be original and imaginative. When the implemented strategy is set the adopted proposition must have the potential to evolve through the cycle of the campaign because tourism destinations have become ever more competitive in the worldwide marketplace. Nowadays, because of cheap flight destinations and last minute deals tourists have diverse options for travel. Aaker (1996) notes that in choosing the most suitable strategy, management should consider the existing inventory of brands to determine the driver role that each brand plays in influencing consumer intentions. Baker (2007) discusses the notion of the brand experience management and the importance of analysing the consumer’s decision making when addressing the challenges of delivering the brand experiential experience. From a destination marketing view, as tourism destinations compete for visitors, it is important to apply a competitive strategy to gain new customers and keep current ones. Because of the fierce competition in destination marketing today it is imperative to retain tourists and encourage future visits. (Xiang et al, 2008)
  • 16.   18   2.0 INDUSTRY ANALYSIS The purpose of this interview was to provide an industry example of how destination branding works and how the literature review complies with the Tourism industry. The interview was completed with Brian Twomey, the Head of Marketing Communications (MarCom) of Tourism Ireland. Tourism Ireland is responsible for marketing the island of Ireland overseas as a holiday destination. Tourism Ireland was established under the framework of the Belfast Agreement of Good Friday 1998. They are jointly funded by the Irish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive on a two to one ratio, and operate under the auspices of the North/South Ministerial Council through the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment in Northern Ireland and the Department of Tourism, Culture and Sport in the South. Tourism Ireland works with the two tourist boards on the island, Fáilte Ireland and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, who are responsible for product and enterprise development and marketing to tourism consumers within the island of Ireland. 2.1 Establishing Tourism Ireland. The interviewer before commencing with the interview, spelt out some of the misconceptions in the public domain of what Tourism Ireland actually does? How was it formed? And who is responsible for marketing the island of Ireland to the international audience? The MarCom explained that he came from a branding background and was very interested in the field of destination branding. He provided the interviewer with current tourism statistics for Great Britain, United States, Germany and France and discussed the new above the line (ABL) and below the line (BTL) campaigns being rolled out in the coming months using advertisements, print and social activity. Since the Good Friday agreement of 1998, tourism in Ireland is now a jointly funded operation with the split being two thirds for the Republic of Ireland and one-third, Northern Ireland. However because of the complex nature of this setup, it can be very unclear to who does what. Tourism Ireland, Fáilte Ireland and the
  • 17.   19   Northern Ireland Tourist Board work together in strategic partnership. Each DMO has a specific role to play and as such different markets and different locations as explained by the MarCom. However, the visitor experience, once in Ireland is disjointed between Fáilte Ireland, the NI Tourism Board and the confusing and competing web sites of Discover Ireland, Discover Northern Ireland, Tourism Ireland and Fáilte Ireland. Fáilte Ireland, the National Tourism Development Authority was established to guide and promote tourism as a leading indigenous component of the Irish economy. The organisation provides strategic and practical support to develop and sustain Ireland as a high quality and competitive tourist destination. Fáilte Ireland works in strategic partnership with tourism interests to support the industry in its efforts to be more competitive and more profitable and to help individual enterprises to enhance their performance. The Northern Ireland Tourist Board is the strategic leader for tourism in Northern Ireland and works in partnership with stakeholders to market Northern Ireland within the island of Ireland and improve the visitor experience. From a practical point of view Ireland is the only country in Europe with this kind of synergy set up. Tourism Ireland explained that when creating marketing campaigns and determining budgets, factors such as other DMO’s could hazard consistency and branding principals. One of the main challenges DMO’s have in any country/nation is trying to maintain control. As Tourism Ireland is a state funded body, it is not there to sell a physical product, they do not have a commercial relationship with the end user so effectively tourism is a ‘business to business’ operation. Their priority is to create the marketing and communications to the world about the nation as a tourist destination and also to highlight and build knowledge and interest. 2.2 Destination Branding. Interestingly, the spokesman for Tourism Ireland admitted that the choice of terminology for branding tourism did not bother him, as he explained the emphasis should be on the branding and not what category. Their emphasis is clearly on showcasing the brand of Ireland as the best tourist destination choice in the world
  • 18.   20   and they must believe it. The interviewer pointed out that according to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Ireland’s tourism has slipped since the 1950’s, when Ireland had a collective 17% of the world share. The MarCom pointed out that because of the magnitude of film and arts in that era, especially the ‘Quiet Man’, (see section 1.5) The American tourist destination’s perception of Ireland was at its peak. But because the world population has increased and more notably, competition has enabled other choice destinations to allocate new measures of differentiation and hence why the task of the DMO’s has become consistently harder. The MarCom noted that the concept and understanding of destination branding bore out of the fast moving consumer goods, (FMCG) model, meaning the same classical branding implementation tools exist, as mentioned in Section 1.2. He stated that they are the brand owner and have a clear sense of what the brand is and how it can be tracked from purchase behaviour. Sometimes the destination does not change in other people’s view; it can be a long burn. The challenge is to make that messaging relevant for different geographies. At the same time, marketing must also grab the attention of tourist destination choice. It is a homogenous product, in that it depends where the brand is being viewed and the perception of who is viewing it. Apart from the overseas expectation, the domestic shareholders must be aligned with a campaign. Tourism Ireland has been a very successful agency for branding Ireland in an overwhelmingly competitive society because of the many facets to the national brand. The MarCom suggested that our cultural heritage is the main catalyst in driving destination sales from the United States, although the travel choice can be classified as a ‘must see destination’ in ones lifetime, so therefore repeat business is small. The main driver and focus for Ireland’s tourism is still Great Britain, with a positive 60% of market share and the messaging and marketing for that location is primarily about proximity and ‘escapism’. So, in an increasingly competitive environment, it is essential to know what your competitive strengths are, to understand your different customers and to identify where your destination sits in relation to your nearest competitors.
  • 19.   21   2.3 Imagery and identity. The MarCom of Tourism Ireland agreed, that imagery is key for integrating campaigns across all forms of communication albeit printed brochures, websites, advertising and social spectrums. He explained that Ireland has the third highest facebook fan base following in the world, thanks to the smart and motivating campaigns and imagery. This bares relevance on the literature of Kotler and Gertner in Section 1.2. Recently they used Chris O’Dowd to champion the target campaign for the United Kingdom running up to the Olympics. The online viral worked because of the relevance of the actor, the setting of escapism and the platform of medium, youtube. He explained the potency and evocativeness of imagery is much more powerful than words, as stated by (Szondi, 2010) in section 1.1. Imagery can be lost if the touristic mindset is engulfed in a subconscious image of Ireland and this can lead to problems. It was commented that their identity is a form of their equity and that whatever historic or cultural attributes are linked to the brand are difficult to shake. The interviewer noted that the Irish experience seems to be almost always through private shareholders or DMO advertisement linked to the ‘craic’ and ‘begorrah’ themes. For Tourism Ireland, they mentioned that the pub is the epicenter to experience the ‘friendlessness’ of the Irish and it is hard to get away from that aspect. Guinness’s falls into the realm of information people already know and have always been seen as a symbiotic ambassador of the brand of Ireland but Tourism Ireland, do not push that alliance and have to manage that relationship correctly. When choosing a destination for travel nowadays the Internet is the key tool but so is the marketing of word of mouth and this is where both imagery and identity have helped Ireland’s steady growth since the downfall in tourism in mid 2009. Tourism Ireland has changed their marketing to capture more audiences with an awareness of stimulation, and vibrancy and will be launching a campaign of ritual iconic landmarks to drive the message. The people experience is seen as their greatest asset and is forecasted as being the emphasis on future projects like ‘the Gathering’ in 2013. However one of the negative sides to identity and imagery is consistency and the
  • 20.   22   very fact that Tourism Ireland has no control over how other stakeholders advertise Ireland as a destination through their own branding, as noted in Section 1.5. Ireland is now seen as unnecessarily expensive destination and unfortunately whilst getting here can be inexpensive, the service industry has had a pessimistic effect on the experience. 2.4 Brand Equity in Tourism. The MarCom suggested that people could only experience the destination within the destination so therefore the challenge is to evoke an emotional connection with the audience and the desire of differentiation. Currently Tourism Ireland, are using a new engagement with the consumer before they purchase by aligning music with campaigns, so no matter where you are in the world, the theme will create evocation and thought about the targeted destination, similar to the Bord na Móna campaign. As equity in literature explains, (see 1.4) the measure of value is repeat purchase and recommendations. For Tourism Ireland, they see the equity as the share of market and the success of volume per country. The MarCom explained the value of losing repeat purchases from Great Britain (GB) is worth the same as all other nations combined and therefore it requires more planning to market. GB has the same to offer as Ireland, so why do visitors come? He explained of all countries the bond stakes are so high for it not to work. Fiscally the trade in tourism from both countries is worth too much to lose and GB gets the largest budget from Tourism Ireland to market. With this in mind the notion of the ‘full circle effect’ was discussed and the MarCom gave his view on this holistic approach to destination branding, see literature section 1.4. He declared that it would depend on the state of the nation, he emphasised that in Cape Town this concept worked very successfully and through tourism the nation found its feet again. But he also explained that the only reason why that worked was because of a collaborative approach from all government and agency departments. Each complimented each other’s message. The greatest way of explaining a full circle approach to branding a nation using
  • 21.   23   destination, is to harness what ‘the Gathering’ is about and how tourism will justify the reason for this approach. The Gathering in 2013 will act as a much needed catalyst for the economy; in terms of tourism, investment and education. The Gathering is a powerful grass-roots movement attempting to reconnect with our global community. Using well-known stakeholders of the arts, music, drama and entrepreneurs the task is to highlight what Ireland has given the world. The Diaspora, maximally interpreted, contains more than 80 million people, which is more than thirteen times the population of the island of Ireland itself. The MarCom concluded that Tourism Ireland is in the business of selling the dream and of the promise but he highlighted that for Tourism Ireland to ascertain traction and measures of equity the fundamental research is of post departure for true market equity. 2.5 The role of Brand Ambassadors and Stakeholders. The interviewer spelt out the meaning of this area in literature. The MarCom suggested that the theory of tourism brand ambassadors and stakeholders is new. He agreed that because of the freedom of communication and messaging through social media, targeting the right endorsement must be selective. It was pointed out that ambassadors do not necessarily mean people, they can also be brands aligned with the national brand or even businesses. He suggested the best tourism destination brand was in fact, New Zealand as the elements of film, (The Lord of the Rings) showcased the country as a destination choice even though the distance and duration of travel is immense. He explained that Tourism Ireland is cynical about using celebrities, due to a previous experience using a celebrity highlighting Ireland in America, only to discover the celebrities’ outrageous political views during post campaign. They too are aware of the lack of control they have as a state body agency over private advertisements damaging the marketing communications. However using the right brand or person in a light fun way with the tone being managed by the DMO, the outcome can be attractive, engaging and functional. All destination branding must be consistent as all countries are saying the same thing but DMO’s must be different.
  • 22.   24   2.6 Management of a Destination brand. Tourism Ireland maintain that Ireland as a nation has a very strong brand and is high on positive perception. The management of a brand on this magnitude is difficult, not because of costs or resourcing but because of competition and the pressure of differentiation, even from our own destination in Northern Ireland. The MarCom suggested that between 2000-2008 the market for choice destination in Ireland had an upward trajectory and trust in state funded organisation was at an all time high. Interestingly when Ireland was in the news with bailouts and economic depression the fallout did not affect tourism. But the internal stakeholders did take note and as Tourism Ireland pointed out, the finger of blame lands with them. Essentially Tourism Ireland becomes the soft target as it is paid for by taxpayer’s money. He explained that DMO’s must hold their nerve and not succumb to other departments or even other governments. In truth everyone has a stake in tourism and everyone has a view on it. If it was commercial body it could ignore that but generally the organisation is left with the ultimate responsibility. Hankinson (2001) identified the absence of departmental coordination as a significant weakness particularly amongst smaller local government organisations. A good plan can only exist after management undertakes a SWOT analysis. The analysis is important because it enables a business to maximise its ability to compete and identify possible future opportunities, see Section 2.6.1
  • 23.   25   2.6.1 Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threat Analysis. A SWOT analysis has been used to identify the current situation for Tourism Ireland. Strengths • The Irish people have a reputation for being friendly, helping to give us a competitive advantage over other destinations. • Ireland’s countryside is perceived as being largely unspoilt and therefore hugely attractive to visitors. • The tourism industry has undergone huge investment over the past 20 years by the public and private sectors in accommodation, special interest facilities, visitor attractions and training. • Airlines offer a wide range of competitive travel services to the island of Ireland, which is also well served by the ferry companies. Weaknesses • Confusion of the DMO’s • Ireland is not a ‘sun’ destination and is perceived as having a very wet climate. • No control over the management of the service industry. • The private sector has no allegiance with Tourism Ireland with regards to how the national brand should be portrayed. • Ireland is today seen, as been an expensive destination choice. • Whilst the ‘craic’ is the epicenter for internal stakeholders, from abroad this is not seen a significant quality attraction. • Absence of a strong internal leadership amongst the DMO’s. Opportunities • Increasing Market share since 2010 of 7%, visitor’s number to increase to 7.4 million. • Create a more co-operative approach to brand alignment. • The Gathering of 2013, connecting 80 million people worldwide to highlight the island of Ireland. • FDI in the country and capitals enabling WOM marketing for tourism. • Chinese trade agreement will enable soft power and linkage to tourism. Threats • Changes in consumer behaviour. • Competition with destinations has increased because of downward pressure on pricing and value. • The increase in short break tourism has lead consumers to garnish maximum experiences for purchase. • Accession states, more accessible and price sensitive. • Our unique selling point is diminishing, as are our ambassadors. • Being an island and not connected to the mainland of Europe.
  • 24.   26   3.0 DISCUSSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS As tourism is one of the largest sources of economic activity in the world, travel and tourism generates economic activity worldwide representing over 12% of total global GDP (United Nations World Travel Organisation). Ireland’s tourism is facing its greatest challenge in several decades as a result of the impact of the recent global recession and the changing patterns of demand for holidays in Ireland. The short term outlook of slow economic recovery in Ireland’s principal source markets suggests a continuing difficult trading period for most businesses. (Irish Tourist Industry Confederation) There are so many facets to branding a nation. Fan’s model in section 1.1 deciphers the make up of a nation brand and the segmented channels of branding. Furthermore the destination decision process model by Cai and Hsu enables the reader to comprehend the natural structure for championing the outcome from knowledge through to loyalty. Therefore what becomes apparent to evoke this said process is the fundamental role of imagery and identity to captivate the attention of the tourist. 3.1 Imagery and identity. According to Xiang et al (2008) competitiveness in destination branding has reached such levels, that the return on investment is based on the tourist’s level of destination’s knowledge and that the correct imagery was present and correctly promoting positive factors for revisitation. From the literature in section 1.3 we can see the importance of imagery in highlighting the destination and its promise of the experience. The brand image is what is perceived in the mind of the consumer and therefore that image must differentiate from other locations in order for positive word of mouth. As noted in the industry analysis, a major issue for Ireland is being an island and an island of close proximity. The figure 3.0 below from Fáilte Ireland illustrates the fall in numbers in the tourism industry due to economic downfall. It seems Tourism
  • 25.   27   Ireland are acting in a responsive manner as the MarCom explained there is a new initiative with brand strategy being launched by Tourism Ireland to encourage numbers back to the heights of 2007-2008, shown below in Figure 4.0. Figure 3.0 Overseas Tourists to Ireland, (Source, Fáilte Ireland) Figure 4.0 Overseas Tourists to Ireland, (Source, Fáilte Ireland) The destination marketing organisation of Ireland, Tourism Ireland, need to focus their marketing approaches on improving the strength, diversity, and uniqueness of
  • 26.   28   the brand so to build a positive destination image to capture the attention of the different target audiences (Keller, 1999). Understandable this is not an easy task and as mentioned previously in Section 2.1, destination markets, culturally demand complex efforts. Another measure of merit is that overseas potential tourists feel their daily lives lack fulfillment and wonder that when it comes to choosing a destination break, they are now looking for a rewarding experience. The island of Ireland is very well placed to deliver this type of holiday experience. The diversity of our iconic experiences on offer to visitors serves to immerse visitors in a holiday here.   In order to build on the new positive campaigns put forth by Tourism Ireland in 2013, targeted campaigns must target sensation seeking tourists to create a satisfying experience. In line with this Tourism Ireland so happens to be planning a new creative experiential campaign by aligning the ‘rough with the relevance’, i.e. their new surfing of the coastal waters campaign. To garnish traction from this activity they will be using imagery of vibrancy not only to attract tourist operators but focus groups of sport associations. This author believes in this height of competitiveness in tourism there is a niche market for this kind of market and with online social communications the aforementioned strategy will empower the benefits. On the other hand, a nation’s identity is something that has been predetermined and is an accepted cultural phenomenon. Unfortunately Ireland’s cultural epic centre is still based around the ‘pub’ factor and whilst as mentioned in section 2.3, the greatest asset to the national experience from a tourist’s point of view is the people experience, there is a profound necessity to encourage our other assets to the forefront. Hence why there is such a surge of activity surrounding the Gathering in 2013, where Ireland hopes to achieve maximum traction from all our stakeholders in arts, film, literature and enterprise at home and abroad. If there are enough tourists visiting the country, then over time this can create a measurable improvement in the country’s overall international image. It is a virtuous circle: the better the image, the more people will want to visit the country.
  • 27.   29   3.2 Brand Equity in Tourism. The natural goal of any touristic activity in destination branding is return loyalty and to present the dimensions of the brand in terms of awareness, imagery, quality and value. The difficulty here is cooperation and consistency. As previously mentioned in Section 2.3, for the consumer the drawback can be the resulting effect from the service industry. More often now, cities and towns alike are championing the promotional activity to gain competitive edge over other towns by creating their own websites and events. It is important to remember that the value of a brand comes from the recognition that it builds up in consumers’ minds over time. So, changing a brand is a radical, but nevertheless sometimes necessary, move. The ideal situation is for brands to live for as long as possible. Radical change risks losing the brand equity that has been built up at considerable cost over many years and rebranding is an expensive process. 3.3 Management of a Destination Brand. The ability to perform positive promotion is down to the brand ambassadors of the nation, meaning the people, the culture and its achievements, albeit international accepted ceremonies or even national celebrities whom endorse the goodwill of the nation. Morgan and Pitchard (2000) argued that the battle for customers in the tourism industry would be fought not over price but over the hearts and minds, indicating that branding will be the key to success. The biggest challenge in managing the branding of a nation is how to communicate a single image to a variety of audiences. Fan (2010) suggests the main problem of branding a nation is the definitions and opinions of the consumer community. The branding of a nation for tourist destination calls for consistency and communications with all stakeholders involved. For a nation to create a desire for destination choice, it first needs to strategically manage its campaign imagery and communications presently and to maintain control of the national brand. Change in branding is mostly seen as a good thing but in developing a diverse change to a nation’s campaign, time is key and short term tactics with brand imagery in this
  • 28.   30   sector simply do not work. As mentioned by the MarCom of Tourism Ireland, planning can take years to evoke the needed message of vibrancy and attractiveness so therefore structure of the brand messaging is key. The way for a nation to gain a better reputation is to work with all parties, create coherent communications in all forms, (print, web and social) and above all monitor the results. As mentioned previously in Section 2.2, Ireland’s destination choice in the 1950’s was at it’s peak mainly due to the demand in American activity thanks to the Irish arts and film industry, but more importantly due to the lack of competitive activity amongst other nations for tourism choice. Since then Ireland’s brand image has been in the hands of Bord Fáilte, (now Tourism Ireland), the Industrial Development Agency (IDA), Bord Bia and Culture Ireland, respectively. More recently due to the economic recession there has been increasing difficulties in marketing the national brand’s image and as such a more coordinated effort has begun to manage the approach. (Fanning, 2011) Fanning, (2011) provided a model, seen in Figure 5.0 below, of how the brand architecture of the national brand is seen currently below with the different organisations responsible for the growth and awareness of the different aspects to Ireland’s brand, respectively. According to Fanning (2011) Globalisation has made the world highly more competitive and interdependent, all nations are in competition for investment, tourists, exports, education and talent of all kinds.
  • 29.   31   CONCLUSION “Every commodity, person, category or town can act as a personal brand.” (Mihailovich, P. 2006, p.246) Tourism is an important source of revenue in Ireland. New trends in the tourism industry provide both opportunities and threats for the sector. Tourism is notably known as having the ‘loudest voice’ in communicating the nation and with that, the responsibility too. It is worth emphasising that whilst the largest marketing budgets are often given to the Tourism sector, the divide and delegation of budgetary measures are somewhat complex and are not seen as having an immediate impact as with marketing consumer products or business to customer products. A state funded body like Tourism Ireland, is not there to sell a direct consumer product of offering. It does not have a commercial relationship with the end user; it is simply selling a dream of a promise within a valued destination. Tourism is a homogenous product, you cannot pre purchase it and depending on where one is viewing it from, the perception can be independent. Essentially all stakeholders of tourism whether they are part of the process by being the product or the consumer, merit responsibility of some form on the branding. Tourism Ireland are themselves essentially projecting an national image of desire and relevance to an international market with the most varied audience. In order to facilitate the touristic decision process, imagery and identity act as the catalyst to warrant the purchase. From analysing the literature chosen and the industry context given, it is apparent that the challenge of tourism is staying relevant in the eyes of the consumer and the ability to control the diversity of standing out from destination competitors. This author believes that creativity in a marketing sense is what will differentiate nations from others and to that extent the classical elements of branding using the model of Aaker and Keller (1990) where the proposition was to examine consumer behaviour and a conceptual framework will encourage change. As Aaker noted the term brand is defined as “a distinguishing name and/or symbol intended to identify the goods
  • 30.   32   or services of either seller or a group of sellers, and to differentiate those goods or services from those of competitors” (Aaker, 1991, p.7).
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  • 35.   37   APPENDIX Appendix A Interview: Brian Twomey, Head of Marketing Communications, Tourism Ireland. Destination Branding. Question: There is a lot of confusion in literature about what destination branding actually means. What do you as part of Tourism Ireland comprehend it to mean? Answer: I am a practitioner; my role is to determine Ireland as a tourist destination. Whatever it is labeled does not bother me. The position is very tourist focused and not investment. I believe the language of destination branding is born out of the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) terminology, meaning it is applying the same principles. To me it is all about treating a country as best as one can as a brand essentially, similar to classical marketing. Question: What aspect of destination branding do you see as being the most important? Answer: I believe consistency within any branding is key. For me New Zealand have secured consistent marketing, imagery and communications as destination brand. It is a matter of a simple proposition of truth; if the perception matches the chosen destination it can lead to loyalty and trust. Question: Some of the reasons tourism destination brands fail includes: resistance to society direction, a failure to reconcile economic development and tourism marketing. How has Ireland’s tourism performed through our difficult economic climate? Answer: Historically the market grew up to 2009 and then dipped quite considerable in 2010 to 2011. This year growth has stayed flat. Our challenge is to meet expectations and we are aiming for higher volume between now and 2015 but our emphasis must be on volume and share. Apart from the economic climate the other reason Ireland can suffer is because we are an island economy and are perceived currently as being expensive particularly from GB and Germany. Interestingly, the negative outcome from the ‘bail out’ has had really no effect on tourism because people can compartmentalize things.
  • 36.   38   Question: Using destination branding how can Ireland differentiate itself from other nations? Answer: There are many stakeholders involved and all of them have different expectations and that is a challenge that occurs. Tourism Ireland is essentially projecting an image. It is the image we have of ourselves and can be different from the one we would like to project and the image people want to receive. How you can differentiate oneself is down to the image the country is portrayed and sometimes that is a problem when external stakeholders get involved. It comes down to marketing a destination with motivation and relevance, as no markets are similar. Imagery and Identity. Question: How important is brand imagery and identity in attracting a touristic audience? Answer: Image is key, from websites, print and social interaction, imagery must be sharable. Ireland has the third largest tourism facebook page in the world. The potency and evocativeness of imagery is much more powerful than words. Tourism Ireland must provoke an appraisal with tourists. Currently we are using juxtaposing imagery to match the theme of motivation. The west coast of Ireland is seen as a surfer attraction hence the imagery displays the motivation and fun of surfing with a backdrop of the rugged coastal line. The marketing can be the hook of familiarity overlaid with the surprise of reality. Identity is an interesting one because Ireland’s main component attraction is the ‘people’ and therefore it is the people as stakeholders who will identify the nation. The Irish are labeled friendly but I would say inquisitive. We are known for connecting easily and that is a value on its own. The ‘people experience’ is our greatest asset. Question: Does Ireland’s culture overuse the ‘craic and begorrah’ themes in branding? Has this been successful? Answer: Unfortunately the cliché of the Irish experience ends up being in a pub and is labeled the ‘craic’. But in a market like the U.S. and GB it is a default setting that is clichéd and highlights a dependency on drink. Furthermore it can highlight Ireland to an audience that is not appealing. The pub is seen as the epicenter to
  • 37.   39   experience the friendliness of the Irish. Interesting you mentioned craic, not too long ago an advertisement agency who looked at Audi and their tagline, ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ thought they could achieve something similar with the ‘craic’ theme for Ireland. But as you can imagine the theme would have sparked criticism as in the U.S. it means something entirely different. We have no control over how other firms highlight the attraction of Ireland for their business, unfortunately. Question: Northern Ireland is a good example of a destination that has dramatically improved its international image (and visitor numbers) by focusing consistently on its core brand values? Can the Republic of Ireland improve on theirs? Answer: They have improved their branding and nation branding hugely and it is noticeable. The funding has helped develop the new Titanic centre amongst others. They have had a lot of good news but all it takes is one bad from a night of rioting to seriously damage all the work. I believe Ireland may have lost some of its ‘fashionability’. The era of notable literature, arts and music as somehow moved and that form of fashion helped Ireland on the world stage. Also Irish people do not want to work in the tourism service industry and this poses a challenge as from research tourists are still looking for the ‘Irish Welcome’, only to be greeted by Polish or Lithuanian foreign nationals. The prices have changed to travel to the destination. Hence why some destination choices from the U.S. may only be once every ten years compared to GB, where it still remains high. Things will change with the ‘Gathering’ in 2013 acting as real catalyst. Brand Equity in Tourism. Question: The challenge for destination marketers is to make the destination brand live, so that visitors experience the promoted brand values. How does destination marketing capture this experience? Answer: People can only experience the ‘destination’ in the destination and the challenge is to evoke by best means possible so you can achieve a sense for it. It must touch them emotionally, the emotive hook as well as the functional one. Tourism Ireland has no hold over the communications between the service industry (hoteliers and restaurants) and the tourist.
  • 38.   40   Question: It is said that Tourism can have a ‘full circle approach’ that benefits both nation and destination branding. Do you agree? Answer: That would depend on the state of the nation. For example, Capetown achieved this with an holistic approach. They combined all the bodies involved and all took share in the outcome of the equity of the brand. Each department must communicate the same message and compliment it too. Perception plays a huge role in the ‘360’ effect. Ireland is a very developed tourism market so the audience that you may try to influence can be in a different mindset than the investment community. Tourism Ireland does consult with the IDA in developing the Irish brand as seen with the Gathering. There is a benefit but if you have a mature tourism brand and an investment brand, sometimes the relevant impact one area has over the other is difficult to assess. Question: Is Tourism Ireland involved on a holistic level on the building of Ireland’s national brand? Answer: Yes to some extent. Tourism Ireland spend between €15 million and €20 million each year on advertisement. So for example attracting Foreign Direct Investment in the economy like Google or Facebook can attract touristic advantages because of the nature of how these companies operate by moving families to new chosen destinations. From this, word of mouth marketing can contribute tourism in Ireland. Again the Gathering is a perfect example of how this can be achieved in a nholistic sense. The role of Brand Ambassadors and Stakeholders. Question: One of the longest standing, and one of the most powerful, of nontravel partnerships has been between Tourism Ireland and Guinness. From a tourism perspective their joint marketing exudes values of Guinness as an Irish cultural asset. Is this still the case? Answer: Guinness has a symbiotic relationship with Ireland even though it is in fact an English country and has been for the past 60 years or so. Tourism Ireland does not push that alliance. As mentioned before it would be very misleading for the brand of Ireland to be portrayed as a drinking nation, hence why Tourism Ireland is very careful about managing the drinking aspect. Although to be honest we do get criticism for showing Guinness in our ads or printed brochures as a
  • 39.   41   means of free advertisement. But Guinness falls in to the realm of information people already know about. Interestingly and worth mentioning is that Guinness themselves do not leverage their Irish roots abroad in their own advertisement. Again it is all about the experience, it is a premium brand for a premium market. Question: In the social society we live in today, can social mediums like twitter endorse the national brand? Answer: Social society is something Tourism Ireland is very proactive about for the communications of the brand. The social space is a great advantage platform for destination branding provided the context is fun and virally entertaining but the tone must be managed. In our recent campaign’ Escape the Madness’, we asked Chris O’Dowd to get involved. The emphasis was on the ‘madness’ of the Olympic events in London and how getting a leisurely escape to Ireland will provide piece of mind. Because we used a relevant star like Chris, in which he did for free, the campaign was very effective and viral friendly. Question: It is famously noted that Australia’s first ambassador for tourism was Paul Hogan. Can Ireland achieve this with a celebrity endorsement? Answer: I think the brand is too complex to have one person representing it. If it happens naturally and in a non-contrived manner it can be very powerful. Look at California, all advertisements are celebrity driven and I am sure they get paid but do they influence purchase, maybe. I think if you use something like the Gathering with ambassadors of film, arts, culture and music, then the message becomes unified and consistent. But saying that you are correct, Paul Hogan did indeed put Australia on the map for Tourism destination with his movies. Destination Loyalty. Question: How does destination brand knowledge help with maintaining revisits and loyalty? Answer: Loyalty is driven by proximity and familiarity but oddly it is not seen as a huge factor of influence for Tourism Ireland. Loyalty is high in GB and it can influence behaviour but destination trips from there are usually short breaks. Repeat business growth elsewhere is small. Equally if you had the same holiday, would want the same again. Loyalty’s most important role is advocacy. If you can
  • 40.   42   influence someone who has had a positive experience then they can influence others. Question: The ultimate goal of marketing is to generate an intense bond between the consumer and the brand, and the main ingredient of this bond is trust. How do tourism bodies maintain trust? Answer: Tourism Ireland is in the business of selling the dream and promise. Tourist decision makers want to receive the proof of what was expected. The research we have received back from post departures tells us that indeed visitors did receive value and that conveys an element of trust. To them the importance is the value of the product; accommodation, entertainment and comfort. There is great value at the moment in the hotel industry but that does not means the service matches and again we have no control over that aspect. Management of a Destination Brand. Question: Ireland has consistently and very effectively projected its core brand values of authenticity, engaging friendly in a modern European society against a background of traditional culture throughout its destination marketing. How tangible is this proposition? Answer: Ireland has a very strong brand, its ad stock value is huge. We are seen very high on positive perception. The management has continued the correct awareness but competition has increased, as has the difficulty to differentiate. Question: All destinations face peculiar promotion and branding challenges since they have many stakeholders and little management control. How does Tourism Ireland overcome this? Answer: It is a challenge, between 2000 and 2008 we had an upward trajectory and therefore trust was seen at a high. But when the economic climate changes and investment becomes slow it has an effect on the brand of Ireland and therefore the blame certainly is upon Tourism Ireland. Our department becomes a soft target as taxpayers pay us. When other bodies interfere, they change the value proposition and this can damage the brand often making the outcome feel cheap. It is up to Tourism Ireland to hold their nerve and complete the tasks at hand. In truth everyone has a stake in tourism and everyone has a view on it.